When my insurance agent announced her impending retirement, I knew that meant the parent company could reassign her clients to various agents in the area. I was prepared, if necessary, to immediately contact the insurer to request the agent who would move into my agent’s beautiful and conveniently located stand-alone office.
Sure enough, her retirement came to pass and I was assigned a new agent about four miles out of my way. Before requesting a change, I waited to see whose name would grace the office that I drove passed almost daily. I cannot recall when the new agent’s name was affixed to the doorway because the rapid decline of the property grasped my attention.
For several weeks, I made excuses for the new agent. “Maybe he’s moving from the other side of the state.” “Perhaps it’s his first office.” “Maybe he has a lot going on in his personal life.” The other side of my brain remained skeptical. “Do I want to do business with an agent, who despite inheriting a large practice, has less professionalism than a rookie?”
So, I waited.
Within a few weeks, weeds were taking over the once meticulously manicured grounds that lined the building’s perimeter. It is a small property, so I wondered why the agent didn’t pull the weeds himself at the very least. Through the single doorway, I saw upheaval inside the office—not construction, but some sort of rearranging. Over the next few weeks, the main entrance appeared to be obstructed by clutter. My impression of the new agent had become more negative.
In the meantime, I received a welcoming letter from my new agent as well as a friendly phone call from a member of his staff. I was impressed by the effort.
After nearly a year, it became clear that the agent who settled into the building vacated by my retired agent had no intentions of sprucing it up to its former glory. By this time, I knew I would not be switching agencies. I reasoned that driving four miles out of my way, should the need arise, was not a deal breaker; doing business with someone whose approach seemed haphazard, however, was.
It’s just business!
My decision may have seemed superficial, but it was just business. If this had been any other relationship, I certainly would have continued down the “benefit of the doubt” road, getting to know the person behind the messy building to understand how I may be charitable.
Regardless how pious and noble we try to be, we are mere mortals. As such, we make dozens of decisions every day based on first impressions. Welcome to being human.
The moral of the story is that appearance plays an important role in branding, which includes buildings, products, and people, and branding has a direct effect on the bottom line. To attract new business, become attractive.